Boston College fans have been quick to criticize coach Frank Spaziani after the program’s 2-5 start.
Boston College is heading towards its first losing season since 1998, but it didn’t happen overnight -- and it didn’t happen under Spaziani’s watch. It’s important to remember how the Eagles got here -- a combination of poor recruiting, deflections, coaching changes and injuries.
I challenge anyone who says that this season and decline didn't happen on Spaz's watch. He has been the coach for two years and everyone of these five losses. Whose watch did it happen on? How is he blameless in all of this? Spaz has been at BC for 14 years, a coordinator for 10 and head coach for two. It wasn't like he was some intern getting donuts. He was deeply involved in most of the coaching and recruiting.
Plus the attrition and injuries happen at every school in the country. It is part of any head coach's job.
Former coach Jeff Jagodzinski came from the NFL, where coaching was enough. Recruiting wasn’t his top priority, and it’s showing now. Only 20 of the 44 players BC brought in during the 2007 and 2008 recruiting classes are still in the program.
The narrative about Jags recruiting is so subjective that I won't spend time on it. But I will challenge the 20 of 44 number (45%). I don't know where HD got it (I assume someone from BC). The actual stat is different. Those two classes had 47 signees and 27 of those players are still in the program (54%). (I will get back to attrition as a post script to this all later.)
The transfer of tailback Josh Haden put the burden on Montel Harris, who has done his best to carry the load.
Haden was/is a nonfactor. Harris is leading the ACC in rushing. His workload is not the reason we cannot score points.
More importantly, there has been a significant drop-off in the number of offensive linemen that were recruited. The position, once a strength and part of BC’s tradition, is now incredibly thin.
The OL has been a problem, but depth is not the issue of 2010. We had four returning starters, a parttime starter returning in Cleary and an experienced backup at Center in Spinney. Yet as a group they've been lost, overwhelmed and not cohesive.
The quarterback position has been equally as troublesome. Dominique Davis, Chris Johnson and Justin Tuggle are gone, and Codi Boek has been moved to fullback.
Davis and Tuggle are gone because they were ultimately told they didn't have a future at BC. Spaz and his offensive staff could have kept both. But regardless of what happened with them, is their absence the reason our offense has struggled and regressed? Are they the reason we are tipping plays?
Enter Dave Shinskie. Exit Dave Shinskie. Enter true freshman Chase Rettig. It’s going to take some time before he develops into the quarterback those inside and out of the program expect him to be.
How can anyone but Spaz be responsible for Dave Shinskie? Shinskie was not inherited. Jags and TOB had nothing to do with him. It was Spaz's decisions to hand the job to Shinskie last year. It was Spaz's job to monitor and judge his progress. It was Spaz who decided to go with Shinskie at the start of the season without giving Rettig time in our first two games (despite the doubts the staff had about Shinskie).
The Shinskie situation had its upside (last year) and downside (this year) but it is all Spaz.
Injuries have decimated the defense. Last year it was linebackers Mike McLaughlin and the horrific news of Mark Herzlich’s cancer. This year the Eagles lost their top receiver, Colin Larmond Jr., before the season even started, and now their top pass rusher, defensive end Alex Albright, is out for the season with a fractured fibula.
Why are we bringing up 2009 injuries? What does McLaughlin have to do with this year? Mark's battle with cancer was devastating but isn't the reason we are struggling now. In fact, I think Mark's play and contributions have been 'house money.' Larmond's injury was a big deal for this year. Finally a point for HD. Albright's injury was also bad luck but he played in these games we lost.
Spaziani is the program’s third head coach in four years. The coaches have changed, and the recruiting philosophies have changed. With Spaziani at the helm, though, they’ve changed for the better.
I've harped on this before but the coaches and recruiting philosophies haven't changed. 60% of our staff has been here four years, which is very healthy for college football. Our director of football ops and our strength and conditioning coach are the same. We've had the same recruiting coordinator for four years. Is that change?
Possibly the worst thing that could have happened to him last year was to win eight games. Not enough people realize what an accomplishment that was, considering all of the obstacles Spaziani was faced with. It was a Coach of the Year-worthy performance.
This year, there’s simply no more miracles. Boston College has one of the worst offenses in the country. It’s not going to change in the next five weeks.
Especially when it took a few years to reach this point.
The eight wins in 2009 was the best thing that could have happened to Spaz. If we had a 2-10 season last year and followed it with our current stinker, Spaz's seat would be on fire. 2009 bought him some good will that he will need soon.
HD finally mentions that BC has one of the worst offenses in the country. I didn't come into this year thinking we would score at will but there were enough pieces (Harris, the returning OL, the deep TEs) to put together a more consistent attack.
I want to focus on HD's point about attrition. I sense this becoming part of the excuse narrative to shift blame away from Spaz. It really is hollow though. Attrition is normal for college football. At any time there should be five recruiting classes worth of players contributing to one season. It is up to the staff to find the best players, put them in the right spots, make them better and give them a good game plan. But for comparison let's look attrition during two past BC seasons.
First 2008 (Jags's second year). I tried to make the comparison as relevant as the 2008 and 2007 classes are to Spaz's 2010 season, so I looked at the 2005 and 2006 classes.
15 signees and only 9 were on the roster in 2008.
20 signees and 15 were on the roster in 2008
Look at those names. Some were stars. Some barely played in 2008 but were still around. At the end of the day, their attrition 68% was better than Spaz's current 57%. However, bodies matter more than percentage and Spaz has 27 guys playing for him from those classes while Jags only had 24.
But let's also look at one of TOB's season. I picked 2003 since that was a year where we struggled with QB issues and rallied late to turn the season around. For this to compare to Spaz, I selected the 2000 and 2001 classes.
17 signees and only 9 were on the roster in 2003.
15 signees and 12 were on the roster in 2003.
This group had an attrition rate of 65%. Healthier than Spaz's current but not as good as Jags' dealt with in 2008. Yet once again there were only 21 players from these classes on the roster in 2003.
I don't want to go player by player, but look back at those classes. There is a mix of talent and busts as there always is with recruiting. We are not the most talented team in the country but our talent level is not drastically different from some other BC transition years. The difference between now and those years is how we are using the talent.